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When Sir John Gielgud was called upon to eulogize the legendary actress Vivien Leigh, his well-stocked mind supplied the perfect words, writes Douglas Murray in his latest 'Things Worth Remembering' column.
The legendary actors Vivien Leigh and Sir John Gielgud in 1959. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Things Worth Remembering: The Last Word on Vivien Leigh

When Sir John Gielgud was called upon to eulogize the legendary actress, his well-stocked mind supplied the perfect words.

Welcome to Douglas Murray’s column Things Worth Remembering, in which he presents great speeches from famous orators we should commit to heart. To listen to Douglas read from John Gielgud’s homage to Vivien Leigh, scroll to the end of this piece.

Of all the forms of public speaking, there is only one that I actually dread: the eulogy. I have had to give a speech at the funeral of someone very close to me only on a few occasions. But I would rank each as among the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

I’m sure many readers have had to perform this task, and you will remember how, in the days or weeks before the eulogy is given, it consumes every moment of your thoughts. It seems impossible to do justice to the person’s life and say something that consoles the living while making sure you don’t break down into a big, slobbering, tearful mess.

To get through a eulogy you have to make sure you simultaneously show emotion without letting it overwhelm you. Many eulogists crack in the last sentence—think of Earl Spencer at the funeral of his sister, Princess Diana. You keep your grief in check, but when you see the end of the speech coming, for a moment you risk letting it all out.

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